Friday 2 December 2016

Tour of the Black Country 2015 in 2016

First venture this week was on Tuesday. Had planned to go cycling with my old pal Ron but he pulled out due to the freezing conditions. It was -4c in some parts and Ron didn't want a tumble. How many times have I told him to invest in some 'Top Contact' winter tyres (Continental)?! I chose to go for a run instead. My run was a cross country affair to Coughton Court and back. Running in the dark was a trifle menace as my visibility was so poor. I had a head-lamp but it was really quite naff. Frozen in parts and foggy/misty in others made for an interesting run. Ran about 5 miles in all and am challenging myself to run a further 5 miles before week is out. (Last week I challenged myself to run 3 x 5k so might just set myself a do-able weekly challenge).

My next adventure was on Thursday. I had wanted to cycle the Tour of the Black Country for ages and this was the day that I finally cycled my rendition of this classic. The plan was to follow the 2015 course which I uploaded as a GPS link from the internet. However, I chose to start my tour from the southernmost point (nearer home) and took wrong turns here and there because my new Garmin (thanks Lin) didn't have maps and this made navigation difficult.
Anyways, my adventure started on a cold winter day with much frost about. After layering up well, I mounted my steed (Winter bike) and started cycling some lovely quiet lanes. Rumour had it, this tour was like the Paris Roubaix and involved lots of cobbled sections. Well it wasn't long before I reached the first lot of cobbles and the only real hill of significance.
This cobbled section was lovely despite it being a little difficult to climb. The rumours were false though, this was the only real cobbled section of the whole tour. Ok, there was another short stretch of cobbles elsewhere but nothing compared to the Paris Roubaix and not '20km' of cobbled sections like one review suggested.

What there was a lot of was variation. There were sections of road, off-road, cobbles, gravel, single-track, dirt roads and bridle ways. Some really beautiful sections, some quite remote and all good for cycling with a gravel type bike.
Some areas were frozen and caution had to be exercised. Am pleased to inform that the ice didn't cause any mis-haps on this occasion. Such a beautiful ride.
The half-way point was Wolverhampton Velodrome. I didn't actually cycle around the Velodrome itself, but cycled around the velodrome just for nostalgic reasons. Being half way round was a good place to stop and eat my pre-packed lunch.
After lunch, I took a wrong turn almost immediately, but this was ok, I followed an off-road route until I joined the official route a little further on. The return route was much like the route in - lots of different sections, on and off-road. I took a tumble at one point, not because of the weather but because of loose ground. Thankfully, I didn't hit the deck - I landed in a hedge instead.

The return route passed through Kinver which was nice. It reminded my of my courting days with SJ. I didn't stop for a feed or a view of the rock houses on this occasion though.
As is often the case on many of my adventures, I spotted something a little unusual. This was a roadside tree with it's own brick wall built all the way around it. Odd, I thought, but neat. I wonder what's so special about this tree?
-2C and still wearing my sandals!
At the end of my tour, I had clocked just short of 100k. It was a splendid ride despite the temperature  being as low as -2c in parts. A recommended tour.

Finished my training (though do not know what I'm training for) for the week by completing another run and attending a sword fighting class. The sword fighting session was called Ryu Magai (or something similar) and I learnt how to do a few cuts with a wooden sword. The sword made swishing sounds which is apparently quite good. I don't think I'll be a regular attender though as I found the class just 'ok'. My run was 5 miles cross country style, thus completing my training week and completing my challenge. I do think I'll run again too.

Blog posted early this week because I am going away on a fellowship weekend with my family.

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